I did not make this headline up
10/11/2008 – Michigan 4, St. Lawrence 3 – 1-0
10/12/2008 – Michigan 5, St. Lawrence 3 – 2-0
Impressions from opening weekend:
SICK. Aaron Palushaj put Michigan up 4-3 on Saturday with the best goal I've seen at Yost since Mike Cammalleri beat two guys and scored from his knees against Michigan State. I'm going to try this MGoBlue embed one more time, but if it doesn't work here's a direct link to Saturday's highlights:
The sickness is at around 2:23.
Yes, Yost Built. Yes, I think having Mark Mitera's knee implode when you're already skating Eric Elmblad because Llewellyn and Burlon are out justifies the term Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God. And if it didn't, well:
Junior defenseman Steve Kampfer suffered an injury Saturday night in the wee hours of the morning and will miss a significant amount of time. Berenson could not disclose the injury at this time but is extremely frustrated. No word on the cause of the injury.
That's four defensemen getting whacked in under a week, the most impressive run of malevolent fate to befall a Michigan team since that a 5'6" Jewish kid was running the point against Michigan State.
If they do rehab, he could wear a brace and play at some point in 2009. If he does surgery, it's also likely he will return but probably not until much later. Berenson obviously wants to do what's right by the kid.
Yes, he could get a medical redshirt if he wanted one but I think it's much more likely he signs with an NHL team after the season. The reason surgery isn't a given is because Mitera isn't going to take a medical redshirt.
As for the other guys: Llewellyn played Saturday and is evidently fine. Burlon has a sprained ankle and had his foot in a boot as of Friday; sounds like he's out for at least a few weeks.
New rules. A big thumbs up to the new faceoff rules:
- When you take a penalty the ensuing faceoff is always in your defensive zone.
- All faceoffs come from one of the nine faceoff circles.
- No changes on icing.
#3 had been very successful in the NHL and you probably know all about it; there were a couple instances Friday that the crew screwed up but that's a minor issue. They probably shouldn't have TV timeouts after an icing anymore, though.
As for the other two, they eliminate a number of boring neutral ice faceoffs; rule #2 does away with those extraordinarily annoying faceoffs a couple feet inside the offensive zone that always result in the puck ending up at center ice if "won."
And there are two referees now, which wasn't a disaster. It seems clear there is a lead referee and a guy who's sort of a backup plan, as both weekends have seen one ref make the vast bulk of the calls. Then again, when Mark Wilkins is one ref and Not Mark Wilkins is the other ref, Mark Wilkins is always going to make the majority of the calls.
No, seriously, at one point Saturday the teams played three-on-three.
New guys. Robbie Czarnik didn't score but he looked pretty darn slick out there. Losing Summers to the defense means he's probably going to have a rotating cast of pluggers on his line this year, but he looks like he could warrant significant power play time and maybe combine with Winnett and Turnbull or Miller or whoever to create a dangerous second line. I wonder if they'll futz with positions a little bit here? It seems like Caporusso is always playing with two guys who can't do much with the plays he sets up. I'd sort of like to see Caporusso, Czarnik, and Winnett give it a try. I dunno.
Wohlberg is tooling around on the fourth line but had a couple of impressive shifts where he got and kept control of the puck in some difficult situations. I missed most of Luke Glendening's reportedly impressive performance against Waterloo; he played Saturday and didn't do anything that left an impression on me.
As far as the defenders: Burlon didn't play and Pateryn got undressed on a goal Friday, then sat in favor of Elmblad Saturday. Pateryn wasn't supposed to come in this year and could be something of a work in progress; his draft status might be more representative of his size (an NHL-errific 6'5", 220) than his ability to play right now.
Emerging guys. Ben Winnett looked like a different player as a sophomore, far more capable when he got the puck and far more capable of putting himself in a spot to get it. I've mentioned this before, but he was a big scorer in junior and a fourth-round pick, so there's certainly some potential there for a breakout year if he gets the appropriate icetime.
The other two guys who jumped out—Rust and Hagelin—were no surprise given their position on the roster. I've been an avowed Hagelin fan since midway through last year and expect him to have a big year. He's almost Cogliano-fast, gives maximum effort on both ends of the ice, and has a pretty slick wrister.
I was never that high on Rust last year; this year he looks like a worthy #1 center.
Meanwhile, Eric Elmblad was solid both nights and appears to have gotten the nod over Pateryn on Saturday. Michigan is going to need him for an extended period of time now. He has to play as long as Burlon is out and may see significant time for the entire duration of Kampfer's injury, whatever it is.
Disappointing starts. Brandon Naurato deservedly ate bench after picking up two silly penalties in Friday's game, and this is probably irrelevant going forward but one SLU goal was a gift from Mitera. Scooter Vaughn got undressed on a couple of SLU goals Saturday.
But the biggest issue last weekend was not any individual player but the powerplay, a lame 1 for 19 on the weekend with the lone goal coming with eight seconds left in Saturday's game. I won't pretend to be some hockey wiz who can diagnose the issues but it occurred to me that there's not really a sniper on the team who can bomb one-timers, and this has been Michigan's PP strategy for the past couple years. Probably will take some time to adapt.
GOALIE WAR. Both candidates for the job gave up one soft goal, one okay goal, and one virtually unstoppable one. Sauer saw a lot more rubber; he has the tentative advantage, IMO.
Overall. That did not look like the #2 team in the country, and with three of the top six defensemen out for extended periods of time, including the captain, it's probably not going to look like that for much of the season. I went into the year expecting the team to win a lot of games 3-1, but now the "1" portion of that equation looks pretty shaky. Hopefully they can put themselves in a good position for when Kampfer and Mitera return, if Mitera can return at all.
The always-incorrect Gary Danielson:
"I said it before the season -- and I was out there by myself -- I think we've seen the spread has peaked, like the wishbone did in the mid-70s," Danielson said Thursday.
The top ten teams in total offense so far, spread teams in bold:
- Texas Tech
- Louisiana Lafayette
- Nevada (pistol variety)
- Oklahoma State
- Penn State
Might want to cancel the funeral.
Potentially notable movers:
- BYU continues to drop as it becomes clear how bad UCLA and Washington are and their competition drops to MW-level teams as others reach their conference schedules.
- North Carolina shoots into the poll after beating Notre Dame, but they were an omission last week and probably should have been around #20.
- My top three are very debatable; if you've got an argument for Penn State or Texas let me hear it.
- So too with four through eight… if you've got suggestions in there let me know.
10/11/2008 – Michigan 10, Toledo 13 – 2-4, 1-1 Big Ten
Not to turn this column into a running diary about Douchebags of Michigan Stadium, but after Kicking Competency Lopata went a long way towards being just KC again I attempted to bolt from the stadium as fast as possible. I got caught in the inevitable traffic jam a dozen or so rows up from my seats. A couple rows above me, a middle-aged man stood on a bench and booed and booed.
He was angry. I was angry.
I stooped to pick up whatever flingable bit of detritus I could find, seized upon an empty water bottle, and chucked it at the booer. I missed,* lightly damaging an older man a row behind him. But I did get his attention. And the old guy looked like he was on The Other Side, so eff him.
At this point a shouting match ensued. Shouting matches are never like they are on TV—laced with penetrating logical deductions that leave the yelled-at victim incapable of response—so I mostly just told him to shut up like 10 times consecutively.
At some point he actually said "if this bothers you that much there must be something wrong with you," at which point my irony sensors exploded. It was sort of like this minus the laughter:
He did shut up, though, or at least direct his anger somewhere other than the field.
Anywhere large groups of Michigan fans interact has fallen into civil war, with people like this on one side…
Listen, I just wanted to vent. I have supported this team this year.
I supported them when Utah won, I supported them when Illinois blew us out of the frickin stadium.
This, I cannot support. I am absolutely disgusted with this.
In my opinion, Calvin Mcgee, Rich Rodriguez, and even Mike Barwis, yup, that's right, Mike Barwis, can go back to West Virginia where they came from.
…and bottle-chucking hippies on the other. That email hit my inbox yesterday around noon; I got a few others like that. You can check the increasingly annoying comments here, where virtually every thread descends into a flamewar within five posts.
And I don't get it. If you read this blog and think I will be at all sympathetic to the idea we should get rid of our extremely successful coach after one year (and hire who? and recruit who?) you have reading comprehension issues. If you use the words "unacceptable"—not actually in this email but man have I see that particular word everywhere in the past few days—and "disgusted" because Michigan's confused, young, and physically inadequate offense can't cobble together drives no matter who they go up against, do you realize that the core community of this blog, including the author, kind of loathes you? I am not on your side.
Sports suck sometimes, especially when you care so much about something you control not at all. I assure you that every Michigan fan was angry on Saturday, and every one had second thoughts about this New Era thing. Some of them chose to swallow that anger, and some chose to give it to someone else. What's the adult thing to do? What would those people in hats have done in 1935?
They would have sucked it up. So suck it up, you pansies. It hurts. Act like a man about it.**
Go do something else. This makes you mad. People say Hinterland is pretty good and it's only twenty bucks. Go play that. Go ride a bike. Or hike into the woods and look at the chipmunk-bears. Build 60-foot sculptures out of balsa wood and your shattered hopes. Just get off the goddamn internet.
Come back in fits and spurts and keep whatever connection you want to have with the program but don't hit that post button when the vein on your forehead is sticking out. It's not that important.
And what does "unacceptable" even mean, anyway? Okay, you do not accept the Toledo loss. And now…? You will inform the internet of this? I see. Congratulations. Go away.
*(Yes, I threw the bottle at Tacopants. If I was one of those guys calling for Threet's execution this would be the height of irony.)
**(Women, in my experience, do not have these issues.)
- There are also two camps about the defense: 1) they only gave up 6 points (really nine if you count the chip-shot FG Toledo missed) and that should obviously be good enough to beat Toledo. 2) That one guy caught 20 balls and they had something like 350 yards of offense. I lean towards two; the only reason Toledo didn't score more was Zoltan's munificence and some of their own incompetence. Though they figured out how to defend some of the play action rollout stuff late, it shouldn't take 5.5 games to come up with a response to the quarterback exiting the pocket. Too many opposing teams have been able to remove Michigan's defensive line from the game by leaving in blockers or hitting short passes or rolling the pocket, and Michigan's insistence on leaving in a thousand crappy linebackers against spread formations is maddening.
Scott Shafer was supposed to be an aggressive man-to-man guy, but Michigan this year has seen a ton of zone and a ton of three-man rushes. WTF?
- Also, on a late third and one Michigan had a three-man line in the game. Toledo ran and made it easily. WTF?
- The playcalling made a lot more sense once Threet's injury was revealed. Also Threet's horrible first few passes, though the endzone pick six wasn't inaccurate. If Nick Sheridan was in for reasons other than "starter incapacitated" even my enforced patience was going to be tried.
- No, this offense would not be any better if it was lining up under center every play and running isos. Banish this from your mind. When you have freshmen at quarterback and most of the skill positions and a line with something like 6 even quasi-reasonable options and the lone senior on the two-deep is the third-string tight end, you are going to be awful no matter what offensive philosophy you adopt. There are like two and a half good players on offense.
And what would that buy Michigan? A Motor City Bowl invite? I'd like to keep the bowl streak—not going to happen—but if the choice is between a crappy December bowl and some increased chance Michigan is great in 2010, I'll take the latter.
- I think that "pre-hab" stuff is well debunked.
- Cissoko seemed to do well, though it was tough to tell with all the zone.
Hello once again. As per usual: Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post; festivities should start around 11:30.
Run Offense vs. Toledo
Well, it doesn't look like the Rocket defense is much good:
(EMU had three "team" rushes for –38 yards that I didn't include, FWIW. Those are usually fumbled snaps or something. I assume a ball flew over the QBs head at least once.)
(Also, this from the FIU box:
However, Michigan's problems on the offensive line are well documented, and running backs not named McGuffie roll themselves in industrial lubricant before each game. Even if you give Michigan the 33 yards they lost on sacks, against Illinois they put up 102 yards on 31 carries, 3.3 YPC. Coming into the game the Illini had been mauled on the ground.
Against Notre Dame and Wisconsin things were better, but the Wisconsin game's final numbers were greatly aided by two late rushes totaling 93 yards. The down-to-down stuff was often caught in the backfield, and you can't rely on 60-yard runs from Steven Threet on a weekly basis.
So… I don't know. I thought this would be a ton better than it was last week because the evidence suggested it, then the Zooker pulls out all this zone read scheming that basically crushes the Michigan run game. Coach Redacted did something right; I have no idea what to think anymore.
I do suggest—again—that this team has nowhere near the athletic ability of a Wisconsin or and Illinois and Michigan should find greater success on the ground than they have recently.
Key Matchup: Rodriguez versus coaching hijinks. I wonder if Toledo will attempt something similar to what Illinois did, and I wonder if Rodriguez will have a response this week.
Pass Offense vs. Toledo
This has been Toledo's greatest statistical weakness. The Rockets check in 109th in pass efficiency D. They're much better—55th—in raw yardage, but getting blown out in three games will do that to you. They appear to have faced two wretched quarterbacks (a rotating duo for Eastern Michigan and Paul McCall for FIU), who they did all right against when their teams let them throw. This was "rarely." Against Arizona, Fresno State, and Ball State, however:
That is ugly, ugly, ugly. Compounding matters: Toledo is 93rd in sacks.
This is again where we point out that Steven Threet is erratic and a freshman and sometimes sinks the Michigan passing game by himself; also sometimes Michigan receivers conspire.
Darryl Stonum returns from suspension for Michigan, but Martavious Odoms sustained a shoulder injury in his breakout game against Illinois and will be limited. Michigan will probably try to sit him out. Expect more of Toney Clemons, the only backup in the slot with Terrance Robinson injured, and possibly more sets with Kevin Koger and Mark Moundros on the field.
This looks like a situation in which Michigan will have to stop itself. There will be many people open and plenty of time for Threet; it'll be a matter of executing.
Key Matchup: Threet versus Tacopants. The main thing I want to see over the remainder of the season is an improvement in Threet's accuracy.
Run Defense vs. Toledo
After a tough game against a BCS foe in Arizona, the Toledo offense blew up for 54 points (41 in regulation) against Fresno State and scored on their first three drives against Florida International. Then the bottom dropped out: Toledo turned the ball over four times and scored three points in the final three quarters against the Neds, then followed that up by getting shut out against Ball State.
Total yards against Letterman U: 157, including a rushing statline that looks like it could be Michigan's:
Things were slightly better against Fresno State:
I dunno, you tell me. The rest of the evidence suggests that Toledo should be easily handled by the Michigan front seven: they were totally mediocre against FIU and got squashed by Arizona. There is no Juice Williams on Toledo's team, there's no Daniel Dufrene, and there aren't any beefy Samoans. I expect something like 3 YPC, not including sacks, with one or two instances where shoddy linebacker play gashes Michigan for 20 or so.
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus fullbacks and pulling guys and reads and the like.
Pass Defense vs. Toledo
Okay, so we give up on the safeties. They're a liability. But where is Boubacar Cissoko? Where is Troy Woolfolk? Why does Michigan bring in two extra safeties in their dime package? I'm extremely concerned for their futures if they can't see the field over Charles Stewart.
In any case: Toledo runs a quick-strike passing game reminiscent of Purdue's. Historically this has not been an offense that finds much success against Michigan, and this year it's been super-dinky. Quarterback Aaron Opelt is completing nearly 60% of his passes and has a nice 7-3 TD-INT ratio but is 86th in passer efficiency because he's averaging just 5.2 YPA. Toledo averages just 8.9 yards per completion, too, and a YPC under ten is a sign of a heavily dink-and-dunk sort of attack. Toledo's also 12th in sacks allowed despite passing more than half the time.
I guess this is good, as it indicates a team not particularly inclined to launch bombs to wide open receivers. Perhaps they're just incapable of getting someone open deep or holding their blocks long enough to do so; I'd be surprised if they didn't at least try it.
Key Matchup: Michigan DBs tackling the Toledo WRs. In an offense like this if you just tackle the bastards as soon as they get the ball the other team eventually turfs one or throws one short of the sticks on third down.
Zoltan now has Michigan #1 in net punting. All hail Zoltan.
Key Matchup: I SWEAR TO GOD JUST KNEEL IT IN THE ENDZONE *#$&#$#$#.
- Threet's accuracy doesn't improve.
- We're not blocking Toledo like we did Notre Dame. There has to be some bottom to the inability of the line.
- They get protection to go deep.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- They can't tackle, which they probably can't.
- There's some semblance of coherency on the OL.
- The DL spends the day in the backfield.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; –1 for You're A 1-4 Team That's Played EMU and FIU, –1 for And Got Shut Out By Ball State, +1 for Could We Get Shut Out By Ball State?, –1 for Probably Not, +1 for But Maybe, –1 for No, Seriously, I Doubt It).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is A MAC Team, +1 for And Maybe 6-6 Will Get Us To "The Promised Land", –1 for "Promised Land" = Detroit, +1 for Losing This Would Mean Bad Things For Next Year, +1 for and Probably The Year After, +1 for We Must Defeat This State, +1 for This Is A 1-4 Team That's Played EMU and FIU)
Loss will cause me to... zombie apocalypse.
Win will cause me to... sigh with relief.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
I'm not going to go so far in the tank as to say Michigan loses to what appears to be a truly horrible team, but I don't expect this one to be over in the first half, either. It'll be the usual grinding struggle with one good play followed by one bad play; Michigan should win comfortably but will be frustrating at times.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Non-McGuffie carries = 8, one of which is fumbled.
- We finally start seeing Woolfolk and Cissoko.
- Michigan, 27-10.